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Natural History Museum Vienna (NHMW)

NHM Vienna

Collections & Expertise

Founded more than 100 years ago NHMW is the main institution for biodiversity research in Austria including departments of Zoology, Botany, Geology-Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Anthropology, and Prehistory. The collections – the oldest parts more than 250 years old – comprise more than 35 million specimens and artefacts including more than 600,000 unique types.

Collections are especially strong and important for taxonomic work in the area of Austrian-Hungarian monarchy but also in Crete, the Iranian area north to the Caucausus, Australia and New Zealand. In other geographical areas the collections also have global importance for single taxonomic groups.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Anthropology Evolution of human skeleton based on morphology and function, demography of human populations in context with geography, climate, economy; reconstruction on living conditions of prehistoric human populations.about 60,000 objects of skeletons, photos, x-ray photos, casts of paleontological objects.
Botany 5,500,000 specimens (incl. more than 200,000 types).Important collections include Algae; Fungi; Lichens; Hepaticae; Musci; Gramincae; Juncaceae; Orchidaceae.Globally significant collections from central Europe, Balkan Peninsula, esp. Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, South-west Asia (basic material for Flora Iranica), Northern, Eastern and South Africa, Central and South America, especially Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.Virtual Herbaria: giving access to the collections of Vienna, NHMW and University of Vienna and to more than 20 other collections worldwide.
Mineralogy 150,000 specimens. Strong in the territory of the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire and alpine regions. Newer acquisitions in worldwide alpine paragenesis, selected pegmatite paragenesis (e.g. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal).New gems and ornamental and synthesised material.New meteorite finds and meteorite falls.Meteoritics, geochemistry and cosmochemistry, igneous and metamorphic petrology, gemology, speleology and cave mineralogy, economic mineralogy and the science of dusts from near (terrestrial) and far (cosmic).
Geology and palaeontology 3,5 Mio. specimens comprising plant fossils from former Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The major part derives from the Carboniferous, Triassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary. Types are included in Catalogue of Palaeontological Types in Austrian CollectionsPalaeoecology; Palaeogeography; Palaeobiogeography; micro mammals.Unique speciality concentrating on Speleology, Karst morphology, Karst hydrogeology, mineral and thermal waters, speleometeorology – speleoclimatology, radon monitoring in caves and karst areas.Speleohistory, especially in the Alps, Carpathians, and Dinaric Alps.
Prehistory More than 1,000,000 single artefacts covering a time-span from Palaeolithic till Iron Age and Early Medieval Period. The collection is based on old excavations undertaken within the area of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy (e.g. Willendorf, Vače, Peschiera, Sopron), supplemented by recent excavations: Grub Kranawetberg (Paleolithic site), Brunn am Gebirge (Early farmers), Hallstatt (Bronze and Iron Age salt mine, Iron Age cemetery), Roseldorf (Celtic sanctuaries). Other projects and research comprise prehistoric textiles and the “Montelius-database” (at time focused on Early Medieval items).The collection also comprises the archives of archaeological sites with photos, documentation and excavators’ diaries of the 19th and beginning of 20th century.
Zoology – Vertebrates Fish: 500,000 alcohol specimens, 1,500 skeletons, 2,000 mounted specimens. Type collection represents 2,000 taxa, 70% are catalogued.Herpetology: 200,000 alcohol specimens, 6,000 skeletons and mounted specimens. Types for 200 amphibian and 600 reptilian taxa.Birds: 90,000 skins, 10,000 mounted specimens, 7,000 skeletons, 10,000 clutches, 1,000 nests. Skins: western Palaearctic, Brazil, New Zealand, parts of Africa, and the Near East.Mammology: 70,000 objects with geographic focal points of South America, Turkey and Middle Europe

Archaeozoology: 350 skeletons and 1,300 skulls for osteological comparison. Scientific focal points: early history and pre-history of domestic animals and stock-farming. Adametz-Collection: skulls of old cattle races. Collection of archaeological complexes (mainly from Austria): over 500,000 dated objects.

Zoology – Insects More than 10,000,000 specimens including 40,000 types of Lepidoptera, 60,000 types of Coleoptera, 10,000 types of Hymenoptera and Zoocecidia, and 6,000 types of Diptera.Important historical collections from China, South-East Asia, South America and the Australian region, e.g. special collections of Natterer in Brazil and material from the voyage of the frigate Novara.
Zoology – Invertebrates 900,000 specimens with more than 7,500 types.
Central Research Laboratories more than 10,000 tissue or blood samples from collection
Library about 6,000 scientific journalsabout 200,000 books (including more than 50,000 historically valuable books)

Analytical Facilities

All the equipment necessary for taxonomic work is available, as well as workstations for data-capture and sharing. For a full list of the equipment that Users can apply to use, click here.

Research supported by the infrastructure

Based on the interest of the Austrian-Hungarian emperors in natural history many collections have been acquired and expeditions have been supported. This resulted in numerous unique collections in NHMW.
During more recent history Austria’s position as a neutral state allowed maintaining academic contacts with the countries of the former Eastern Block. Based on this tradition NHMW holds much material from this area in its collections material which is not available in other museums outside the CIS-States.

Today, staff members of AT-TAF collaborate with colleagues all over the world in numerous international projects.

Recent Highlights

  • first identification of a leprosy germ via anaylsis of aDNA
  • description of a new species of Gundelia from Armenia and a new genus of water bugs
  • proof of “Luizi structure” in Democratic Republic of Congo as impact crater of a meteorite
  • discovery of rare grave furniture: bronze dagger, iron jack-knife
  • investigation of bird migration route of young honey buzzard